Technical recruiters have an incredibly difficult job today. Their employers are growing rapidly and eagerly seeking technical candidates to fuel ambitious product development schedules. But so are many other companies across industries, so labor markets are tight, sourcing channels have dried up, and software developer salaries are skyrocketing. Forward-thinking talent acquisition teams are changing their tactics to gain an advantage in the war for talent.
In a less competitive talent market, employers typically have more flexibility to direct the interview process and negotiate with candidates. But that’s no longer the case.
In the last 10 years, I have personally interviewed with some of the leading technology companies, including Google, Facebook, MongoDB, and Buzzfeed. There are 400+ employers using my code screening platform, Coderbyte, to screen 100k+ developers per year. I have seen a shift in how talent acquisition and engineering teams interview and hire:
1. Optimize the candidate experience
Back when unemployment rates were above 5%, employers were far more selective and had the freedom to implement lengthy and robust screening and interview processes. Many used platforms like HackerRank to run exhaustive code challenges to filter out candidates and then full-day take-home projects as a final evaluation before giving an offer. Now that the market for developers is more competitive, effective talent acquisition teams are changing approaches.
There are many publicized cases of qualified candidates revolting against aggressive screening tactics, especially when they’re not even well-designed to properly assess relevant skills.
It’s common to hear from employers that about 50% of candidates won’t even take their screening assessments or take-home projects. Interviews cost too much to simply scrap screeners, but it’s absolutely crazy to lose half your pipeline before even getting to the phone screen!
Optimize the candidate experience by focusing on shorter and more relevant screening and take-home assessments, and by using platforms with great candidate experiences. Coderbyte was built in today’s economy when the candidate experience matters, but check out any number of platforms to improve your hiring process.
2. Emphasize your engineering culture
I have long felt that most career pages are optimized for non-technical employees, but fairly unexciting for developers. Technical recruiters typically have to inform candidates about a number of factors that aren’t present anywhere on their career pages, such as:
- What tech stack is used across the company’s products and services
- What open-source technologies or libraries the engineering team uses and contributes to
- What engineering communities and events the organization supports
- What opportunities there are to learn from senior engineers and grow, and to present projects at conferences and events
- What opportunities there are to attend conferences, workshops, and bootcamps to learn new skills on the job and keep on with the rapidly evolving discipline of software development
I’ve begun to see the most effective organizations create dedicated career and culture pages to attract engineering talent. Some great examples of this are MongoDB and Stripe.
There are a variety of other topics to then emphasize during the interview process, such as content and resources about the company, its products, and its impact on customers. Great talent acquisition teams even sponsor local engineering events and meetings which usually guarantees their own engineers opportunities to present and gain exposure.
3. Seamlessly communicate throughout the interview process
Today’s developers are impact-driven and conscientious. They want to work at companies that are too. The best talent acquisition teams are transparent, over-communicate rather than under-communicate, set reasonable expectations, and ensure the candidate and employer are on the same page. Common mistakes include:
- Bait-and-switching roles by telling a candidate at the end of the interview process that they aren’t qualified for the role they were interviewing for, but are qualified for a lower compensated one
- Going radio silent for more than 48 hours
- Not directly answering or being able to get credible answers to legitimate technical questions about the engineering team, job requirements, or short-term initiatives
- Not sending the candidate prep materials ahead of an intensive in-person interview
Remember, it’s 2020 not 2008. Today’s candidates are in-demand and desire transparency, flexibility, and authenticity. That might mean texting rather than emailing if that’s how the candidate prefers to communicate. Or perhaps bring a sales rep into the interview process to give the candidate an actual demo of the product they’ll be building. Whatever you do, think about how it aligns the candidate with what makes you unique as an employer, and then be straightforward and candidate-driven.